Whitireia welcomes back first international student to return under border exception

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After spending an unexpected 17 months in China when New Zealand borders closed due to COVID-19, Yongzhi Sun was met with a warm welcome upon his recent return to campus.

Yongzhi was one of Whitireia and WelTec’s first offshore international students to return under New Zealand’s border exception, which allows 1000 students completing a degree level course or higher back into the country.


Yongzhi Sun, International Bachelor of Nursing student returns to Whitireia to continue his studies.

Now in his final year studying a Bachelor of Nursing, Yongzhi says he wouldn’t have made it back without the support of the Whitireia and WelTec International Team and his tutors; “I felt so touched by everything they did for me. They checked in often and sent me resources to help me get back on track with my studies while I completed my quarantine in New Zealand.”

Yongzhi began his journey at Whitireia when he moved to New Zealand in 2016. Unable to speak a word of English, he worked his way up through the English Language programmes at Whitireia before setting out to study automotive engineering. It wasn’t until a fellow Chinese student shared their inspiring experience studying nursing did Yongzhi change his mind – “I didn’t think I would be successful in nursing, but I decided to give it a go and I’m so glad I did.”

While there are many aspects of Whitireia he loves, Yongzhi admits the smaller classes and interactive learning environment is the best fit for him. Coming from a fast-paced and busy lifestyle in China, Yongzhi finds solace in the easy-going Kiwi culture.

Working as a healthcare professional in a multicultural society like New Zealand, Yongzhi says you interact with diverse groups of people. During his placement Yongzhi was able to step-in and help interpret English for Chinese patients experiencing communication difficulties. Yongzhi says it was an honour to be able to bridge that gap between two cultures and enhance the healthcare experience of Chinese living in Aotearoa.

The future is bright for Yongzhi; with hopes to continue his nursing career in New Zealand after graduating and bring a positive contribution to the health-sector.